Photo of Geronimo
The use of the name "Geronimo," pictured, in connection with Osama bin Laden is not acceptable to many Native Americans. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

One of the details that emerged about the raid in Abbottobad that killed Osama bin Laden was that the name “Geronimo” was used in connection with the operation. Whether it was a codename for bin Laden or the mission, Native Americans are not pleased with the reference. Many consider it another in a long line of insults and degrading treatment by the U.S. government.

Bin Laden code considered unacceptable

Native American groups are angry over the use of the name of a famous Native American in connection with the killing of Al Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden. At the conclusion of the operation by Navy SEAL Team Six, one of the soldiers reported “Geronimo-E KIA,” according to Reuters, meaning that an Enemy was Killed In Action, and presumably that the code name for bin Laden was Geronimo. The use of the name does not sit well with the remaining members of the Apache tribes, and especially the descendants of the Chiricuaha (“Cheer-ee-kow-ah”) band that Geronimo was a member of. The use of the name Geronimo in connection with one of the most heinous terrorists of all time is considered by some an unforgivable insult.

Hearing convened after strong reaction

The chairman of the Fort Sill Apache band, Jeff Houser, wrote to the president that the use of Geronimo’s name in connection with bin Laden was “painful and offensive.” Others object to continued portrayals of Native Americans as hostile or enemies of the United States and continued structural racism against Native Americans. Many others point out that Native Americans have rarely been portrayed with any historical accuracy by either the media or by significant swathes of academia for decades, and the use of the term is an extension of the legacy of racism against them. Many people also object to the glaring differences between Geronimo and Osama bin Laden. In response to the extremely negative reactions, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will hold a hearing to look into the matter.

Unfair comparison

Both Geronimo and Bin Laden fought against the American military and both were notoriously hard to capture. However, that is where the similarities end. Osama bin Laden sought to establish a particularly conservative and fundamentalist version of Islam all over the world and had no compunctions whatsoever about killing men, women and children in the quest to do so. Geronimo, whose real name was Goyahkla, fought the Mexican and American armies that had invaded his people’s territory. He was defending his people against foreign invaders encroaching on a way of life that was several millenia old and was all but gone from the world when he surrendered. Osama bin Laden was a child of immense privilege who took up a deluded and psychopathic “revolutionary cause,” that has benefited no one.



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